Aspen Music Fest passes no-confidence vote on leader
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN, Colorado – The Aspen Music Festival “corporation,” a body comprising of mostly Music Festival faculty members, passed a no-confidence measure against Alan Fletcher, the institution’s president and CEO, at a six-hour special meeting at Harris Hall on Thursday.
The tally of how many of the corporation’s 148 members registered a no-confidence vote against Fletcher was not disclosed. The measure has no immediate consequence; it was a nonbinding vote. Fletcher remains in the position he has held since early 2006, and Rob LeBuhn, the chairman of the Music Festival’s board of directors, said that the board had not scheduled any action to remove Fletcher from his job.
“Alan will have to take this vote into consideration, for his going forward,” said LeBuhn, who has been chairman of the board since last June, and a member of the board for six years, following the vote. “But he’s our CEO and will continue to be.”
LeBuhn added that the next regularly scheduled meeting of the board is set for late June, and that no other meetings before then have been called.
Fletcher, whose contract expires at the end of September, is making no immediate call to action, either. Asked his plans, he said, “I continue working hard. Because we have a lot of work to do to get this summer up and running, and make it great. It’s really the board’s decision what this means for the position of the president.”
Fletcher added that another task occupying his time is conducting a search for the Music Festival’s next music director. Former music director David Zinman requested to be released from his contract earlier this month, and later indicated that his departure was due to differences he had with Fletcher over their visions for the festival. LeBuhn, a member of the search team to find Zinman’s successor, said a committee was still being formed to hire a new music director, and that several candidates for the job had already been identified.
Only approximately a dozen members of the 148-person corporation showed up at Harris Hall for Thursday’s meeting. The majority made their votes and comments by phone. While Fletcher said there was a certain amount of anger in the atmosphere, he and LeBuhn said the clearest sentiment expressed was affection for and devotion to the 61-year-old Music Festival.
“It was impassioned,” Fletcher said. “There was anger, sure. But more love and commitment to the organization than anger.”
“There were a lot of people talking. The important thing to me was, there was a lot of listening, too,” LeBuhn, a part-time valley resident, said. “I would say it was very cordial. It was a good meeting. There are different points of view, but people were listening to each other.
“It was mainly musicians who called the meeting. They wanted to be heard, and they were heard.”
The rift at the festival, which began to emerge publicly toward the end of last summer, stems largely from a plan to reduce the size of the faculty. The board adopted that plan a year ago, but Fletcher has been criticized for how the cuts were implemented. Fletcher has also been backed by vocal supporters, including faculty members who said he did an acceptable job of a difficult task.
Thursday’s vote leaves the Music Festival with a tough road of its own. The 2010 summer festival – with 625 students to educate and numerous concerts to present over the eight-week season – begins in a little over two months, and the organization has no music director, and a president who is weakened by the no-confidence measure. But both LeBuhn and Fletcher noted that the festival has an institutional strength built on the positive feelings people have for the organization and its mission.
“I think the organization still has a lot of coming together that needs to be done,” LeBuhn said. “But we have a lot of generous donors who have continued to come forward. Their loyalty is to the Music Festival, and the teaching that we do. These other things they wish would not happen. I think we’re in excellent shape. Because it’s about the music and the students.”
Fletcher said that Thursday’s vote confirmed that the people presenting the music and teaching the students needed to do a better job of getting along. But he also indicated that he remains among those dedicated to the bigger picture of the Music Festival’s well-being.
“It’s so clear a message, we have a lot of work to do to bring people back together,” he said. “Either we’re going to pull together or we’re not. And it’s my responsibility to be in there, engaging in that.”